CAIRO - A British primary school has been taken to court over refusing to allow a female pupil to wear hijab (Muslim headscarf).
The school is being taken to the High Court by parents of a Muslim girl, Kate Magliocco, head of St Cyprian's Greek Orthodox Primary School in Thornton Heath, told London Evening Standard on Wednesday, January 2.
A Muslim couple have filed a lawsuit before the High Court to force the school to allow their nine-year-old child to wear hijab in classes.
They believe that, because she is nine, she has reached puberty and it would be a sin for her not to be covered because the school has male teachers, Magliocco said.
Hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, not a symbol that shows ones religious affiliation.
The headscarf came to the spotlight after France banned the Muslim outfit in schools in 2004. Several European countries followed the French suit.
"At the heart of this is a girl who has been unable to return to schoolâ¦ If it does go to court then it cannot be a positive thing, Magliocco said.
This is not the first time the wearing of hijab at schools sparks controversies in Britain.
In 2006, a Muslim schoolgirl sued her secondary school for refusing to allow her to wear a traditional gown. The school later won the case.
Last year, a north London school was also found to have broken anti-discrimination laws when it turned down a pupil for wearing cornrow braids in his hair.
Britain is home of a Muslim community of nearly 2.5 million.
Officials argue that the Muslim headscarf does not fit with the school uniform.
"The school has a very particular uniform policy, which is shared with parents and, as head, I must follow the plan, Magliocco said.
According to the school's website, students are required to wear a dark blue coat, an optional blazer, a skirt, white blouse and a navy blue pullover.
The guidelines, however, fail to mention a ban on the Muslim headscarf.
"The decision not to allow her to wear a headscarf was taken by the governing body, Magliocco said.
The British headmistress insisted that the Muslim parents were notified about the school's uniform rule before the enrollment of their child.
The pupil in question came to us from a private school, she said.
"Her parents actively chose us and, before she arrived, we held a meeting which included details of the uniform plan.
They are a really nice family and it is a regrettable situation for both sides, she said.
Government guidance on uniforms says that schools should act reasonably in accommodating various beliefs relating to clothes, hair and religious artifacts.But it says heads should have the ultimate power to restrict the freedom of pupils to manifest their religion if it is justified on health and safety grounds or to protect other children.